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Roundup of Local Media Reports on Operation Cross Country VI: Parsing Hidden Information

Date: June 25, 2012

Below is a roundup of local media reports regarding the Operation Cross Country VI, a three-day nationwide campaign by FBI and local law enforcement authorities aimed at “rescuing” minors in the sex trade. See my previous blog posts below for basic understanding of what it is, and what the problems are:

Local reports are interesting because they sometimes reveal information not available from FBI’s press releases, as journalists interview their respective local officials for their stories. There are of course many more articles, but I am only listing articles that includes some original reporting.

Last updated: 07/11/2012

Massachusetts: 14 arrests total, 3 of which were “pimps.” 1 juvenile “recovered.” Matches data for FBI Boston Division (all of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, and Rhode Island). (The Republican, 06/25/2012) While 1 youth (17 year old) is said to have been “caught up” during the sweep, it was determined that she was not involved in prostitution. (Boston Globe, 06/26/2012). Is this the same youth who is listed as the only “recovered juvenile” by FBI?

Sherveport-Bossier City, Louisiana: An article claims “nearly 30” pimps were arrested in Northern Louisiana, which is obviously inaccurate. FBI’s New Orleans Division (all of Louisiana) reports 10 “pimp” arrests, which is more than in most other divisions, but still not 30. The reported figure probably is for people who were arrested for prostitution, most of whom are adult women. (KLTV, 06/26/2012)

Revealing quote: “The teenagers, who are all U.S. citizens, were handcuffed and held in police custody until they could be placed with child welfare organisations.” (Daily Mail, 06/26/2012)

Toledo: An article claims “26 of 104 alleged pimps arrested between Thursday and Sunday were in the Toledo area.” FBI Cleveland Division (northern Ohio) reports 0 “rescue” and 1 “pimp” arrest, so the paper is clearly wrong. 26 must be the number of all arrests, most of which are probably adult women in sex trade. (Toledo Blade, 06/26/2012)

Detroit: 70 people arrested, including 5 “pimps” and 22 “customers”; 6 teenagers “recovered.” That leaves 43 arrests for people (mostly adult women) who trade sex. FBI’s Detroit Division (covering the entire state of Michigan) reports only 3 “pimps,” so this discrepancy is curious. (Detroit Free Press, 06/25/2012) One of the youth was a boy. (WXYZ, 06/25/2012) Other sources report that 77 out of 79 minors “rescued” were girls.

San Francisco Bay Area: 6 teenage girls “rescued,” 7 “pimps” arrested, matching the FBI figure for the San Francisco Division (all of coastal Northern California). Breakdown of teenagers: 4 in Oakland, 1 in San Francisco, 1 in San Rafael. (Huffington Post, 06/25/2012); 61 “adult prostitutes” arrested (San Francisco Bay Guardian, 07/11/2012) Another source claims 10 “pimp” arrests in the Bay Area, contradicting FBI release: 3 in Richmond, 3 in Vallejo, 2 in San Francisco, 1 each in San Jose and San Rafael (Marinscope Sausalito, 07/03/2012) In Richmond, 8 adult women are arrested for engaging in prostitution (Contra Costa Times, 06/25/2012; San Jose Mercury, 06/25/2012) Another article claims arrest of “65 adult prostitutes” in the Bay Area (Patch, 06/26/2012) SF Weekly (06/27/2012) absurdly claims “60-plus women who had been working as prostitutes” were rescued, even though they were not “rescued,” but simply arrested as criminals.

Oklahoma City: 2 girls in OKC, 44 “others” arrested. FBI’s Oklahoma City Division (entire state of Oklahoma) reports 3 “rescues” and 7 “pimp” arrests. Even if all 7 were included in the 44, that leaves 37 arrests for sellers and their clients–mostly sellers, of course. (The Associated Press, 06/25/2012) Quote: “[Police] are partnering with the FBI to pull dozens of prostitutes off the streets, including two minors here in the metro.” (News on 6, 06/25/2012

Chicago: “72 people face federal solicitation charges,” 65 other arrests (total 137). FBI Chicago Division (entire northern Illinois) reports only 3 “recovery” and 3 “pimp” arrests, so most of these arrests were for buyers and sellers. (The Times, (06/25/2012)

Portland: 3 “rescues,” 6 “pimps,” and 3 “adults with prostitution.” This figure is consistent with FBI Portland Division’s numbers, but contradicts the data I collected, which shows 7 arrests for adult women. (KOIN 6, 06/25/2012)

Atlantic City: 29 arrests, mostly adult women charged with “engaging in prostitution.” FBI Newark Division (all of New Jersey) reports 0 “rescues” and only 3 “pimp” arrests. (NBC10, 06/24/2012)

Secaucus, NJ: Part of FBI Newark Division. 4 adults arrested for “engaging in prostitution,” 1 arrested for “engaging in a massage business without a proper license.” No juvenile arrested or identified. (Hudson Reporter, 06/29/2012)

Dallas: 6 “rescues,” 36 other arrests (none of whom were pimps). FBI Dallas Division says the same thing (6 “rescues,” 0 “pimps”). (The Dallas Morning News, 06/25/2012)

Milwaukee: 63 total arrests, comprised of 53 “adult prostitutes,” 3 “pimps,” 7 “rescued” youth. FBI Milwaukee division (all of Wisconsin) reports 6 “rescues” and 0 “pimp” arrests, so there is a big discrepancy here. Also, the article makes it clear that “rescue” actually means “arrest.” (CBS 58, 06/25/2012) (Thanks Claudine O’Leary for the link.)

Operation Cross Country VI: FBI’s campaign to “rescue” youth continue to cause mass arrests of adult women

Date: June 25, 2012

I’ve been collecting data to keep track of all prostitution arrests (mostly adult women who are selling sex) in Portland area for the last several months for a project I am working on right now, and noticed an unusual spate of arrests over last week. It was quite depressing to see so many women being criminalized and imprisoned for simply trying to survive, so I wrote this comment on my facebook wall:

EmiKo Yama – Saturday at 9:34pm
There have been 14 arrests of women engaging in prostitution in Multnomah and Washington counties in the last week. At least half of them have been arrested for the same offense in the last year, and three in the last couple of months. One woman has been arrested 10 times in less than a year (and the only reason she wasn’t arrested any more than that is that she spent much of last year in jail). Why is our government wasting resources criminalizing people instead of using the same resource providing real options?

One of the reasons arrest records seemed unusual last week was that they were spread out to various parts of Portland as well as to surrounding cities of Gresham and Beaverton: ordinarily, East Precinct of Portland Police Bureau arrests vast majority of the women, followed by North and Central precincts.

On Monday (June 25th), I find the explanation: over the weekend, FBI and local law enforcement authorities around the nation have conducted yet another installment of Operation Cross Country, the coordinated nationwide three-day hunt for victims of “commercial sexual exploitation of children” (CSEC, or as I’d like to call it, CSEY with “children” replaced with “youth”). According to the FBI Innocence Lost Initiative press release, this iteration resulted in “recovery of 79 children” and arrests of “104 pimps” by the 47 FBI-local task forces over the three days (FBI does not disclose which three days, I assume they were June 20-22 based on the unusual spike in the arrest data).

Interestingly, FBI did not release the total number of arrests, which includes “pimps,” buyers, and sellers of sex, as they did in the past. During the Operation Cross Country V (November 2010), for example, FBI reported that 885 people were arrested overall, 99 of which were “pimps.” Since arrests of buyers is extremely rare, it is reasonable to assume that the vast majority of arrests that were not for the “pimps” were arrests of people who trade sex, mostly women (including trans women). OCC-V claims to have “rescued” 69 minors from CSEY nationwide, while more than 10x women were arrested for basically doing the exact same things these young people were doing. We are unable to make a similar comparison of scale because FBI chose not to publish the number of all arrests.

Below is an updated chart summarizing the information released by FBI through its press releases.

Spotty Data from FBI’s Operation Cross Country sweeps
Source: FBI press releases

  Date City Rescues Arrests Rescues TD Convictions TD
0 12/16/2005 14 30 19   67
1 6/25/2008 16 21 389 433 308
2 10/27/2008 29 49 642 (73 pimps, 518 pros) 577 365
3 2/23/2009 29 48 571 670  
4 10/26/2009 36 52 700 (60 pimps) 900 510
5 11/8/2010 40 69 885 (99 pimps) 1200 625
6 6/25/2012 57 79 104 pimps; total unknown 2200+ 1017

Date = Date the operation was announced in a press release. Typically, the stings take place during the 72 hours before the announcement.
City = Number of cities in which stings took place.
Rescues = Number of minors FBI claims to have “rescued.”
Arrests = Number of arrests made. This may include adult prostitutes, clients, as well as pimps (FBI doesn’t fully disclose the breakdown).
Rescues TD = Number of minors FBI claims to have “rescued” to date since Innocence Lost Initiative began.
Convictions TD = Number of convictions FBI claims have resulted from Innocence Lost Initiative.

The number of cities participating in Operation Cross Country is based on multiple news reports.

While the FBI press release does not provide some information that previous press releases did, it details division-by-division breakdown of all “recoveries” and “pimp arrests,” which is fascinating. Here are the numbers:

“Juvenile Recovery” and “Pimp Arrest” by FBI Division
Source: FBI press release, 06/25/2012

Div J# P# Div J# P# Div J# P# Div J# P#
Albuquerque 0 0 Atlanta 3 5 Baltimore 0 1 Birmingham 0 0
Boston 1 3 Chicago 3 3 Cleveland 0 1 Dallas 6 0
Denver 2 3 Detroit 6 3 El Paso 1 1 Houston 0 1
Indianapolis 0 0 Knoxville 0 0 Las Vegas 4 4 Los Angeles 5 3
Miami 2 4 Milwaukee 6 0 Minneapolis 0 4 Newark 0 3
New Orleans 3 10 New York City 1 1 Oklahoma City 3 7 Omaha 0 2
Philadelphia 2 2 Phoenix 2 1 Portland 3 6 Richmond 0 2
Sacramento 6 6 St. Louis 2 2 San Antonio 0 2 San Diego 2 7
San Francisco 6 7 Seattle 6 7 Tampa 3 3 Washington 1 0
Totals 79 104                  

Note: Divisions are different from city limits. For example, FBI’s “Portland” field office covers the entire state of Oregon, not just Portland and its surrounding area, and excludes its northern suburb of Vancouver, Washington (which is included in “Seattle” office).

According to this breakdown, “Portland” division of FBI working with local authorities “recovered” three young people in the sex trade, while arresting six “pimps.” However, the data I have collected from Multnomah County only shows only two arrests for “promoting prostitution.” In the meantime, there were nine arrests of adult women for selling sex.

Because FBI’s “Portland” division covers the entire state of Oregon, rather than just Multnomah County, it is possible that four other “pimp” arrests took place in the rest of the state. But this is unlikely not just because Portland is the largest population center for the state, but also because Portland is the only city in Oregon with an FBI Innocence Lost Task Force agreement (as far as I know).

One plausible explanation for the discrepancy is that the four unidentified “pimps” were minors themselves. That would explain why I can only identify arrest data for two “pimps” in public information even though there were supposedly six of them. The two people whose information is made public were also young, at ages 21 and 25. I’m going to see if I could find out if this is the case.

In the next post, I’m going to provide a roundup of local media reports about the Operation Cross Country VI. Local media often interview local police for further information, resulting in more detailed data not available in FBI press release.

Book lists from an indie reference librarian wannabe, June 2012

Date: June 25, 2012

List of books I brought to “Show & Tell” at Queer/Feminist Theory Reading Group at Portland Q Center, June 24th, 2012.

  • Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa
  • Friends from the Other Side / Amigos del otro lado by Gloria Anzaldúa (children’s book)
  • Prietita and the Ghost Woman / Prietita y la llorona by Gloria Anzaldúa (children’s book)
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  • This Bridge Called My Back ed. by Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa
  • On Lies, Secrets, and Silence by Adrienne Rich
  • Women as Womb: Reproductive Technologies and the Battle Over Women’s Freedom by Janice Raymond
  • This is What Lesbian Looks Like ed. by Kris Kleindienst
  • Prostitution, Power and Freedom by Julia O’Connell Davidson
  • At the Heart of Freedom: Feminism, Sex, & Equality by Drucilla Cornell
  • Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation by Eli Clare
  • The Politics of Disablement by Michael Oliver
  • How Nonviolence Protects the State by Peter Gelderloos
  • Violence by Slavoj Žižek

Librarian wannabe comments: My friends know that Gloria Anzaldúa is my hero and greatest influence, but not many people know that she wrote children’s books for border kids. I wanted to share them with the group. In this theory reading group, we’ve read articles that challenge us, things that we might not agree with but it would be helpful for us to know what they are. I often recommend Janice Raymond’s “Women as Womb” in that way: by understanding her larger critique of medical technologies and individual choices, one could more fully understand her vitriolic (and insincere) work on transsexual women (The Trans-sexual Empire: Making of the She-Male) that she is most notorious for. I also picked some books related to critical disability theory and others that deals with the concept of violence/nonviolence critically because they could be good themes for our future meetings.

List of books I brought to June Portland Feminist Meet-up discussion on “waves” of feminism at In Other Words community center, June 3rd, 2012.

  • Letters of Intent: Women Cross the Generations to Talk About Family, Work, Sex, Love and the Future of Feminism ed. by Anna Bondoc & Meg Daly
  • To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism ed. by Rebecca Walker
  • Listen Up!: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation ed. by Barbara Findlen
  • Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism ed. by
  • Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century ed. by Rory Dicker & Alison Piepmeier
  • Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards
  • Daughters of Feminists: Young Women with Feminist Mothers Talk about Their Lives by Rose Glickman
  • We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists ed. by Melody Berger
  • Feminist Fatale: Voices from Twentysomething Generation Explore Future Women’s Movement by Paula Kamen
  • various issues of HUES magazine
  • the first issue of Alice magazine
  • early issues of Bitch and BUST magazines
  • Rebecca Walker’s article, “Becoming the Third Wave” from January/February 1992 issue of Ms. magazine

Librarian wannabe comments: To Be Real, Listen Up!, and Third Wave Agenda were all important “third wave” anthologies in the mid-1990s, but they framed “third wave” differently. Listen Up! was edited by a second wave feminist to “give voice to” younger women, which made it the most palatable (to second wave feminists) representation of the “third wave” voices, whereas Third Wave Agenda traces the roots of “third wave” in the tradition of radical women of color feminism that have resisted second wave orthodoxy since the 1970s. Letters of Intent is the most interesting book ever published on the intergenerational conflict between feminists. Daughters of Feminists and Feminist Fatale are usually not associated with the third wave because they came earlier than that phrase but points to what was to come. HUES magazine, co-edited by Adios, Barbie/Body Outlaws editor Ophira Edut, was for me the single most important feminist magazine in the mid-1990s that represented to me what third wave was all about. Reading earlier issues of Bitch and BUST is interesting because Bitch was pretty much what it is today pretty since early on, while earlier issues of BUST was actually more like what Bitch: clearly and identifiably feminist, rather than simply giving feminism a lip service to sell products.

New Zine Release – “Understanding the Complexities of Sex Work/Trade and Trafficking”

Date: June 16, 2012

Hey people! My new zine, “Understanding the Complexities of Sex Work/Trade and Trafficking” is available for download and purchase. Okay, it’s basically a compilation of some of my blog posts on the topic with a few twists and edits, but I think it can be a great resource.

This follow-up to last year’s “War on Terror & War on Trafficking” contains many of my essays complicating and problematizing the mainstream discourse on sex trafficking, addressing such topics as “push and pull” analysis of youth in the sex trade, failure of “rescue” model, lessons from domestic violence movement, transgender youth, and many others.


Table of Contents:

My zines are available directly from me at my zine store, or in person at Portland Zine Symposium and other places.

Special offer! If you purchase “Undersanding the Complexities…” and “War on Terror & War on Trafficking” together from this link ($10 for both), you will also receive a special insert of my article, “Trade Secrets: The tough talk of the new anti-trafficking movement” published in Bitch magazine last year, and a sticker that says “Real Feminists and Human Rights Activists Don’t Buy Ashton.”

Sticker image

Dear Oakland Occupy Patriarchy: You are scaring me.

Date: June 14, 2012

Sex worker activists and others are protesting H.E.A.T. Watch anti-trafficking conference this week, because it is a conference of law enforcement agencies and its allied “anti-trafficking” groups to promote further criminalization as a solution to the complex issue of commercial sex trafficking of young people.

Among the activist groups protesting the conference was Oakland Ocupy Patriarchy, whose “disruption” of the said conference has resulted in at least one arrest. But in the statement announcing their protest/disruption, they prominently use a quote from my article in Bitch magazine, identifying me as a “sex worker and activist” (they also have another quote later in the post):

OOP screen capture

However, in Bitch article I do not identify myself as a sex worker. While I do not make secret of my history in the sex trade, I use discretion as to when and where I refer to myself as a sex worker for my safety–not just safety from violence, but from prejudice, discrimination, and police surveillance.

People involved in Occupy movement more than anyone else know that the law enforcement is closely observing what they are doing, and they will certainly read statements they post on their official website. They should also know that identifying individuals as “sex worker” publicly, even if the information is already available elsewhere, would pose extra threats to their safety and livelihood. It is especially threatening when the sex worker is associated with a quote that is critical of the law enforcement on a website that discusses occupation, disruptions and direct actions.

This is the kind of incident that makes me distrust the Occupy movement, with its white boy sensibilities and priorities, despite the participation of wonderful women and queer/trans people of color, and even as they intend to actively fight the patriarchy. I would also add that it reminded of me how I was grabbed, physically restrained, and sexually harassed by two white men at Occupy Oakland last November, and nobody stepped in to do anything (after pestering me about having sex with them, they finally let me go and told me “I was just joking”–haha, funny).

I appreciate the fact that Oakland Occupy Patriarchy recognizes that the law enforcement is exploiting the serious problem of commercial sexual exploitation of youth (CSEY) to further the militarization of our society and profits of the prison industrial complex. I appreciate that they are protesting the conference in support of sex workers’ rights groups. I’m just frustrated that many of Occupy activists do not seem to “get” the amount of fear people in the sex trade are in every day, and do not seem to get that they don’t get it.

Update 06/15/2012: It appears that Oakland Occupy Patriarchy has removed my quote from its website. I appreciate that, although I wish they had thought about it beforehand. For the record, I do not object to having my work quoted; the Bitch article is a published work and I have no problem with it being used by other people. I object to being identified as a “sex worker” when I did not label myself as such in the context, and especially so when people are quoting me to justify their potentially illegal activities like direct action and disruption.

Danielson’s “Homecoming Queers” details 2000 panel by Raging Exotics: Women of Color Caucus at PSU Women’s Studies Department

Date: June 10, 2012

Recently I came across Marivel T. Danielson’s book, “Homecoming Queers: Desire and Difference in Chicana Latina Cultural Production.” The book draws heavily on the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, who is not just one of my favorite authors, but the single most important influence in my own development as a feminist theorist and writer, so it was naturally very interesting to me.

But what I found most curious about the book was that it refers to the student organization I co-founded while attending Portland State University, Raging Exotics: Women of Color Caucus at PSU Women’s Studies Department. In fact, Danielson concludes the book with a story about a panel Raging Exotics presented at a women’s studies conference at University of Arizona, which was nightmarish. It’s re-traumatizing just to read her description of the incident, but I’m glad that someone put into record what happened, because we were too stressed to write about it ourselves.

Below is an excerpt from “Homecoming Queers” that describes what happened. In the book, she discusses the incident further using concepts she introduces elsewhere, so please take a look at the book if you are interested. (By the way, I believe that the French woman mentioned toward the end was Monique Wittig. Can someone confirm?)

Excerpted from “Homecoming Queers: Desire and Difference in Chicana Latina Cultural Production” by Marivel T. Danielson, p. 184-190

One group of students engaged in such a critical, political, and creative revolution of hegemonic academia emerged from the Women’s Studies Department at Portland State University under the self-proclaimed title “Raging Exotics: Women of Color Caucus.” In the fall of 2000 at the University of Arizona, founding members of Raging Exotics alongside Women’s Studies students from the Tucson campus offered a workshop at this conference proudly entitled “The Future of Women’s Studies Conference.” The panel detailed the student organization’s history, goals, and personal experiences and traumas lived by women of color students within Women’s Studies academic departments as well as the field in general. Although the group offered copies of their work in print, the most vibrant form of theorizing occurred as the panel and audience performed the lived experience of collaboration and confrontation in this “live” venue.


Over the course of their panel, “Raging Exotics” members Monica Steen, Lamya Chidiac, and Emi Koyama, joined by two local University of Arizona Women’s Studies students, would present their own experiences, each reading a prepared statement” about the unique forms of racism and ignorance with which she grapples on a daily basis as a student in the Portland State University’s Women’s Studies Department. In addition to their panel presentations, the students offered copies of their independently published zine. In this publication, the “Raging Exotics” established their goals as well as demands of audiences and readers alike: “The issues we are talking about are still very traumatic for us, so we may get emotional in the course of the presentation. Do not freak out or use our emotions as an excuse to devalue our words. And if you are white, take responsibility for your discomfort upon hearing our very difficult stories. We are not talking about skinheads or KKK; we are talking about perfectly well-intentioned feminists who end up hurting us due to their ignorance and prejudice” (Raging Exotics Zine).

However, before they could begin their presentation, the validity of their experiences and theories would be performed as a profoundly troublesome introduction. That afternoon I entered the tiny, almost empty classroom with an Anglo female friend who insisted on sitting silently in the back row. When I suggested we move closer to the front of the room, she shook her head and pointed to a sign written in large letters on a blackboard at the side of the room: “This is a space for Women of Color to speak and express ourselves. If you are not a Woman of Color please keep your comments brief. If you do not respect this request we will tell you to stop. This workshop is not about you.”

I sat and watched as women entered, filling the room, reading the sign, and reacting with varying degrees of melodrama, outrage, indignation, fear, righteousness, humor, and fierce accord. One older woman appeared disturbed and seemed to scoff at the sign’s request. She strolled calmly into the classroom, claiming a seat in the front row directly across from the panelists, as if initiating a duel. Before the speakers began, the woman rose from her seat and walked to the center of the table where they had placed a stack of their self-created zines. She first read a sign indicating that the publication was free to women of color and five dollars for allies. In a loftily sarcastic voice, the women challenged, “What if you’re 1/16 Cherokee. Does that count?” Clearly upset, one of the panelists managed to state firmly, “I find your statement offensive. I think you should leave.” The woman offered that she was just joking and, if given the benefit of the doubt, could have been lightly directing an anti-essentialist nudge at the workshop organizers’ establishing statement. When she was met with only stunned silence, she turned to face the now nearly full and shocked audience and implored, “Do you think I should leave?” No doubt expecting a warm and supportive match to her own indignation at the situation, she received, instead, only our own awkward silence and stares. Another panelist quietly argued that perhaps she should be allowed to stay, but the stand-off would not so easily be diffused. Finally, incredulous, the woman turned, gathered her things, and exited the room as the rest of us watched speechless. Perhaps none of us had ever observed a scene where an older Anglo professor, with clear institutional knowledge and authority, had been shut down by a young woman of color student. Perhaps we had never seen or experienced a space in which insensitive quips, derogatory joking, and carelessly tossed racist statements were neither tolerated, nor reciprocated. Perhaps we had only dreamed of such spaces where women of color took precedence even in the company of other dominant groups. And we sat speechless now, not realizing these spaces could actually exist, that we would ever be fortunate enough to locate them, to situate our- selves, our bodies, voices, and experiences within such a site.

In this pivotal moment, graduate students, young and largely queer women of color, assembled a space of their own along the lines of similarity as well as shared difference from larger dominant spheres. They defined this sitio with specific boundaries to indicate whose participation was relevant and permissible. The attention to voice, la lengua, was also imperative, as they were clear in their desire to allow the words and experiences of women of color to not only emerge but also to dominate or at least saturate the discursive focus of the workshop. In addition to invoking such voices, the members of “Raging Exotics” attempted to remove any dominant voices deemed distractionary, demeaning, or dismissive. Even seemingly supportive gestures were deconstructed into their most basic dominant parts, as when one white French woman began to cry as she expressed how upset she was that someone would think her oppressive when all she intended to do was help. After continuing to speak between tearful gasps for roughly a five-minute uninterrupted stretch, one panelist responded dryly that this workshop “was not about her [the French woman].” Whether intentional or not, the woman’s emotions shifted the panel’s intended focus from the unique experiences and needs of women of color in academia to the guilt and indignation of Caucasian female scholars. Rather than rush to the side of this woman, the students simply recognized the attempt to shift attention and refocused on their own critical agenda. The attempt, of course, was to cease what Gloria Anzaldúa calls reactive communication, where a struggle takes the form of action/reaction where all critical thought is focused on combating the ideas of others, rather than offering up new and original ideas of one’s own. For the “Raging Exotics,” the goal was to act and speak, rather than respond to the issues and inquiries of another. Yet Pérez deems such a sitio strategic, since even the original thoughts and speech presented in the room that afternoon were responses to actions and words of the now silenced Anglo women. Painful exclusions, bitter dismissals, and tokenized treatment marked most of the experiences shared that day. Though the imposed Anglo silence rule removed these women’s discourse from the hour or so of discussion-following the conflict and indignant ejection of one woman–the sitio was provisional, not permanent or lasting in its ability to silence or remove the structures of power present among feminist scholars.


Chicago Police misclassifying trans women of color in the sex trade as “johns” in its “end demand” initiative

Date: June 6, 2012

In “Mug Shots: Transgender ‘Johns’,” research methodologist Rachel Lovell reveals that a large number of people whose mug shots have been posted by the Chicago Police Department as individuals arrested for soliciting for prostitution (i.e. buying sex) appear to be transgender women of color.

According to Lovell, Chicago Police Department has been posting mug shots and personal information of people who were arrested as “buyers” of sex online in 2005. Public posting of the mug shots of people arrested as “buyers” of sexual services has been a cornerstone of many “end demand” campaigns targeting the “johns” throughout the country.

Her research center, Social Science Research Center at DePaul University, began collecting the published information since 2010, and she almost immediately noticed a curious trend: a significant portion of mug shots seem to show individuals wearing clothes, hair, makeup, and accessories that are clearly feminine in presentation, despite the fact they are categorized by the police as male “buyers” of sex. In fact, over 10% of the mug shots published in the two-year period from March 2010 to March 2012 show faces of trans women.

Those who consider trans women as “men in disguise” might jump on such finding as an evidence supporting their prejudice, while the rest of us instinctively get the feeling that there is something wrong with the notion that over 10% of individuals who have been arrested as “johns” are trans women. Further analysis by Lovell and her team indicate that there is, indeed, something unusual going on.

According to her breakdown of arrest data, there are stark differences between non-transgender men who are arrested as “johns” and trans women who were arrested for the same offense, beyond their gender identity and presentation. Trans women who were arrested as “johns” tend to be overwhelmingly (92.7%) Black, compared to less than half of non-trans arrestees; they are much younger too.

Young trans women of color are not known to patronize prostitutes in droves. But they are known to be more likely to engage in prostitution to survive, more so than any other group I can think of. In fact, any young trans woman of color is vulnerable to be profiled and arrested as prostitutes even if one is not engaging in the sex trade. This is also the group most often targeted for hate crimes, and for police harassment and brutality. Lovell is probably right to assume that these women are far more likely to be sellers, not buyers, of sexual services.

It is not clear to me if they are actually arrested under false premise as “johns,” or the Chicago Police Department is simply publishing names and photos of any legally male individuals arrested for prostitution (since many laws do not distinguish buyers and sellers–which is another discussion). But regardless, there is no question that they know exactly what they are doing: maliciously punishing and humiliating women for their race, gender, gender identity, and class for daring to survive.

This intentional mislabeling of trans women of color as “johns” by the Chicago Police Department of course reminds me of the recent case of CeCe McDonald, a Black trans woman who has just been sentenced to serve 41 months for defending herself against violent assailants. In McDonald’s case, too, she is not just punished for doing what she had to do to survive, but on top of that she is misclassified as a male perpetrator: she will spend her sentence in a men’s prison. The message is clear: for trans women of color, survival is a crime.

There has been a huge war of words over a radical feminist conference in the U.K. that excludes trans women from attendance over the last couple of weeks, but that exclusion does not occur in a vacuum. The same radical feminists who disregard trans women’s lived realities of womanhood under the patriarchy are also behind the punitive/criminalizing approaches to prostitution including “end demand” initiatives (e.g. Sheila Jeffreys who has been banned from the venue of the radical feminist conference for hate speech against trans women before the venue canceled the conference altogether is the Australian representative of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women).

Trans women of color know that this is not just an issue about some obscure conference of close-minded folks: transphobia, racism, and the persecution of women and other people in the sex trade are inseparable, and the violence of trans exclusion and misclassification, racial and gender profiling, hate crimes against trans women of color, and State violence are all connected and constantly present in the lives of trans women of color.

Memo: Twitter exchange with Stella about her (inaccurate) article on “pimps posing as sex worker activists”

Date: June 1, 2012

Below is the Twitter exchange with the account “Manhattan Call Girl” (@StellaMarr) about her blog article, which I commented a couple of days ago. I am archiving her comments here because she seems to have deleted many of them.

emikoyama 8:18 PM – 31 May 12
are you really certain that people you name as “pimps” actually are? @StellaMarr

emikoyama 8:19 PM – 31 May 12
bcz sex workers and even trafficking victims sometimes end up with “promoting prostitution” charge even though they aren’t pimps @StellaMarr

emikoyama 8:21 PM – 31 May 12
if they are actual pimps, then, yes i agree with you. i’m weary of criminal record as source knowing how abusive legal system is @StellaMarr

Stella responds the next day:

StellaMarr 12:35 PM – 1 Jun 12
@emikoyama Between being trafficked & pimping = #bigdifference. It’s not something easily confused #sexworker #feminism

StellaMarr 12:37 PM – 1 Jun 12
@emikoyama I used primary sources — the personal sites of parties in question.

She does cite sources, but her sources do not indicate that people she is mentioning are “pimps” in any way, with the possible exception of the man who is said to be a partner of someone who owns a male escort service (who is also a sex worker himself).

emikoyama 1:04 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr But you seem to be confused. Don’t you understand that “promoting prostitution” doesn’t mean pimping?

emikoyama 1:05 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr Charge of “compeling prostitution” would mean pjmping. But “promoting” doesn’t. It can apply to lots of things beide pimping.

Stella seems annoyed, like I don’t know what I’m talking about.

StellaMarr (deleted and couldn’t recover time stamp)
@emikoyama you seem to have a lot of free time, read my article again #bullying #feminism #emperorsnewclothes

I did read the article more than once, but still wasn’t convinced.

emikoyama 1:10 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr For example, several working women sharing work space together for safety and to save expenses is “promoting.”

emikoyama 1:11 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr driving someone or providing security is “promoting” even if it’s just friend and isnt making any money.

emikoyama 1:11 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr Further, consider this: pimp asks girl to introduce other girls to recruit. She complies. Is she now just a pimp?

emikoyama 1:12 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr I don’t know of any women you mention as pmps. I know them as sex workers. If they are in fact pimps, please give me more info.

emikoyama 1:13 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr Because none of their criminal charges indicate that they are.

Now she is really getting irritated.

StellaMarr 1:15 PM – 1 Jun 12
@emikoyama everyone knows we hate m or f pimps. You are boring me with these silly posts most guys prefer you go to hotel or thr house

StellaMarr 1:15 PM – 1 Jun 12
@emikoyama ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz bored

I was shocked that she would publicly display disrespect toward me rather than responding to my concern which was quite simple.

emikoyama 1:16 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr why do you need to insult me like this? i thought you were my sister. i dont like pimps any more than you do.

When I searched for her Twitter name, I found a lot of people calling her a liar and being rude toward her, so I could understand that she thought I was just one of them. I am not. I think I’ve kept everything pretty respectful. She changes her tone a little bit.

StellaMarr 1:20 PM – 1 Jun 12
@emikoyama then quit defending pimps darling, sorry I just get bored with these ridiculous hairsplittings — wish you well xo

Great, let’s go back to the actual content of our disagreement.

emikoyama 1:22 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr not defending pimps. i just think you are wrong to determine they wre pimps based on evidence we have.

emikoyama 1:24 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr because i can just imagine how horrifying it is to be falsely accused of being pimp. it would make me wanna die if it were me.

emikoyama 1:24 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr but otherwise i totally agree: pimps arent sexworkers and dont belong in sw groups.

Stella doesn’t contradict anything I say, or provide any further evidence.

StellaMarr 1:28 PM – 1 Jun 12
@emikoyama Lets agree to disagree —

StellaMarr 1:29 PM – 1 Jun 12
@emikoyama Based on evidence we have they should not be founding &leading sex worker unions/activist orgs — conflict of interest #feminism

We can’t just “agree to disagree” about whether or not someone is a pimp. That is a serious allegation and cannot be made lightly.

emikoyama 1:54 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr seriously, don’t we need to be more careful about calling people pimps? criminal charges you site don’t equal pimping.

emikoyama 1:59 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr pimps can be convicted of pandering or promoting prost but not everyone convicted of these are pimps. it’s that simple.

emikoyama 2:00 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr i am also concenrned and speaking out about conflict of interest within sw movement. i wrote about some examples in my blog.

emikoyama 2:02 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr to me, calling someone a pimp is among the worst thing you can say about someone. i dont want anyone to be called that wrongly.

Stella has not made any further responses since then, and appears to have deleted most of her replies toward me.

I understand that it is difficult to be speaking out as a survivor. I also understand that everyone says things on social media that they regret later. But her blog post is spreading extremely damaging information about sex workers’ movement that isn’t true, something that are being used to discredit and marginalize a whole movement that is fighting violence and exploitation of people in the sex trade.

If she regrets making any of the comments I quote above, I ask that she become transparent about it. Further, I ask that she retract the original blog post unless she can provide actual evidence that the people she name are “pimps.” I’m sure she understands how horrible it must feel when someone “expose” you as a pimp when you actually are not.

June 2, 2012 Update

At least one person who is mentioned as a “pimp posing as a sex worker activist” has responded, stating that she has never been a pimp. I don’t personally like her rhetoric (especially about Stella’s brain being damaged), but I can empathize: I would be pretty angry too if someone called me a pimp or flat-out negated authenticity of my experiences.

June 2, 2012 Update 2

Another woman told me that Stella called her a pimp, even though she wasn’t at all. She found the allegation particularly offensive because she has had a pimp herself. I wrote the following plea:

emikoyama 9:45 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr This is a personal and emotional plea. Please, please, stop calling people “pimps” when they aren’t.

emikoyama 9:46 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr Multiple people you named as pimps have now stated they aren’t pimps. One woman says she had a pimp too. You have no evidence.

emikoyama 9:46 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr Your “source” is criminal cases that don’t equal pimping. Pandering and promoting can and do apply to people who are not pimps.

emikoyama 9:46 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr I’m sure you understand how offensive it is to call someone who was exploited by a pimp a “pimp.” If it were me I’d be suicidal.

emikoyama 9:46 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr This is beside politics. We can disagree about everything else, but this is one thing survivors don’t do to each other.

emikoyama 9:48 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr Okay, maybe I’m wrong and they are pimps, though evidences don’t seem to support that. Perhaps. I’d rather err on that side.

emikoyama 9:50 PM – 1 Jun 12
@StellaMarr …than taking the risk of erroneously labeling survivors “pimps.” It is extremely traumatic.

I don’t know what’s going on in her head now, but I really hope that she hears me.

June 9, 2012 Update

After posting above, Stella asked me to remove this page because it made her feel unsafe. I do not want to make her feel unsafe, so I agreed to unilaterally remove this page as a demonstration of good faith. But at the same time, she was making many women unsafe by falsely labeling them “pimps,” and I asked her to delete the false allegations. I told her that I would permanently remove this page altogether if she did.

Stella continue to insist that her allegations were supported by evidence, but did not provide any evidence beyond what she included in her blog post. She also asked me not to contact her again. I agree not to contact her unless she contacts or mentions me first, which unfortunately made it impossible to engage with her further. I have now reinstated all exchanges I removed once because while I do not want to make her feel unsafe, I cannot ignore how she is making many other women unsafe with her false allegations.

Below is a statement I posted to this blog while the content was temporarily removed.

June 4, 2012 Update

After posting this entry, @StellaMarr asked me to remove this page. Well that’s not entirely accurate: what happened was that she claimed that she had asked me to remove it, even though I did not receive any such request. But okay, so she wants this page taken down–and I am willing to comply with that, even though I was merely quoting the comments she posted to Twitter.

The reason I am honoring such request is because she is a survivor and that means she is my sister and I feel loyal to her. I do not want to publicly criticize or expose another survivor even when she sort of deserves it, considering the fact she is making outrageous false allegations against other women in the sex trade that they are pimps. These women she is hurting are also my sisters too, and I want to defend them as much as I want to defend Stella.

So here’s what I decided to do: I’m going to unilaterally remove all the comments she made on twitter from this page as a gesture of good faith. And as I do so, I ask that she takes down false allegations against other women, or provide evidences to support her claim. “Pandering” and “promoting prostitution” charges are not evidences of someone being a pimp for the reasons I explained before.

After removing her tweets from this page, I will wait for 24 hours. If she does not remove her false allegations against other women and stop making similar attacks against my sisters, I have no choice but to conclude that she is acting in bad faith and reinstate this page to the original state.

Stella says that it is not a personal attack to point out that someone is a pimp. Well, it is definitely a personal attack when the allegation is false. My blog post, on the other hand, is not a personal attack against her: I am simply quoting her actual words to point out why her allegations are false.

I wish I didn’t have to criticize another survivor. In fact, if she would remove the false allegations and keeps it off her blog and tweets for long enough to convince me that she won’t do the same thing again, I will remove this page altogether including this statement itself. That is how loyal I feel toward a fellow survivor.

But if she does not remove her false allegations, and continues to make similar allegations against other survivors and sex workers who are not pimps, I will have to stop letting my loyalty to her as a fellow survivor get in the way of honoring my loyalty to these women who are being hurt by her actions.

Please note that I never defended the owner of male escort service she mentions in her article. It is clear that he and his partner are owners/managers, and while some people disagree about the use of the word “pimp” to describe managers who, like employers in other industries, hire people to work for them without coercing or exploiting them, and even though they are sex workers themselves as well as managers, I think Stella has a valid point about challenging the conflict of interest. Plus, I don’t like bosses in any other industries so I have no reason to like bosses in the sex industry either. So I am not defending the two men she mentions in the beginning of her article.

Other people she attacks, however, are probably not pimps, under any definition. Pimps can be charged with pandering or promoting prostitution, but not everybody who is charged with these crimes are pimps, because people can be found guilty of these crimes even if they do not control anyone else and do not even profit from another person’s sexual labor. I don’t want Stella to feel unsafe because of what I write here, but I also can’t let her continue to threaten safety of other women who do not deserve to be hurt.

Finally: Stella wants me to stop communicating with her on Twitter, and I respect that. I am going to post a final tweet to let her know this URL to give her an opportunity to act in good faith. Her refusal to engage with me directly makes it difficult for me to defend other women who are hurt by her actions without posting it publicly, which might make her feel unsafe. I struggle with this dual loyalty, but in the end I will have to side with people who are at the receiving end of the undeserved attacks rather than the other side. Stella, I wish you would not put me in that position.